Levi Strauss & Co., the American clothing giant known around the world for its jeans, has found a way to make the fiber from the hemp plant feel as soft as cotton. The company calls it 'cottonized hemp' and its goal is to produce garments made 100% of this material by 2025.
The hemp is one of the most versatile plants in the world. But its misunderstood association with marijuana, as well as the interests of the almighty chemical industry, have made it illegal in the United States for the past century. But times are changing and hemp farming is now legal in the country after the Farm Bill was passed in 2018.
Legalizing this super crop can be revolutionary for many industries, such as clothing manufacturers. Hemp produces twice as much fiber as cotton and uses far less water and chemicals to grow. Hemp also grows much faster, improving the soil as it does so making it a more sustainable crop. And it can be manufactured locally to provide manufacturers with a more affordable and environmentally friendly hemp fiber source for making hemp fabric.
The availability of hemp as one more material option is always beneficial for companies that turn to sustainability to appease their customers (and in the process reduce their contribution to climate change). And Levi Strauss is one of the companies that is beginning to be more respectful with the environment by incorporating this plant in its textile catalog.
Thus, the well-known clothing brand will offer jeans made of 30% hemp and 70% cotton thanks to an innovative technology they have developed that makes hemp as soft as cotton. The cotton fibers are obtained from the cocoon of the plant, and are easy to work with. Hemp fibers, on the other hand, are embedded in the stem and branches; but, unlike cotton, it is difficult to work with the material. However, Levi's has found a way to soften the hemp fibers and mix them with pure cotton.
A gradual process
Levi's was desperate to find an alternative to cotton as a raw material, as fresh water is increasingly difficult to access for cultivation. This technology unexpectedly emerged after years of research in Europe, where industrial hemp was already legal in many countries. And while Levi's has not disclosed to its partners in the discovery, they will be ready to roll out a marketable version of these garments in three years, featuring clothing made from 30% hemp and 70% cotton.
While Levi's plans to release the first version in three years, research will continue to find a way to make hemp 50% of the mix with cotton; and finally they will review the production process where hemp will be used 100%. The company claims that within five years they could hopefully launch "100% cotton hemp garments that are all hemp and feel like cotton."
And there is hardly any difference between this hemp fiber and pure cotton. After all, the majority of customers only want quality clothing. So the company is not particularly concerned with how they will receive this new material on the market , as it would probably be an easier sale, as hemp is more environmentally friendly than cotton.
“We are going to go from a garment that spends 3,781 liters of fresh water in its manufacture, 2,655 of that in fiber cultivation alone, to eliminate more than 2/3 of the total impact of water on the garment. That is saving a lot, "says the company, providing data collected by the Stockholm Environmental Institute.
And it is that only the substitution of 30% of cotton in the manufacture of jeans would be very good for the environment. So the time and effort to make hemp as soft as cotton can make this textile technique a wonderful discovery for the clothing industry, which will soon flood your wardrobe.